by Ellen Appelbaum
Now that the Covid rules are starting to change, more and more families are ready to hit the road. If you’re in that number, the first question for a frum family is, “Where are you gonna stay?”
“I LOVE renting a house as opposed to a hotel,” writes one mother, who has a lot of company. A pool, a full-sized fridge, the option to cook, shared living space for recreational time instead of fragmented rooms parceled out to kids, are of the highest priority. So, for many, the Airbnb model of short-term rentals has a lot more pluses than minuses.
Whether it’s Airbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, or others – this new business model disrupted the industry so thoroughly that some hotels now are actually offering Airbnb-type experiences.
What Are Your Must-Haves?
To start your search, know what you need. What’s your budget? How many adults? How many kids? How many bedrooms do you need? Who can sleep in the same room? Do you want a place with a pool?
Some places list toys available for kids. If one of the kids sleeps in a crib, you can add “pack-n-play” to your search criteria.
Some of the smaller rental websites, i.e., competitors, have very helpful office staff who can send you link options if you tell them all your criteria.
How to Tell If You’re Going to Like a Place
Any place you’re considering must have good reviews. Look for high ratings. Read comments, because people are pretty honest. Check out whether they liked the neighborhood. Was the place clean?
You don’t get the address until you book, but there are workarounds for that. One mom, who had misgivings about a place she was considering, checked the reviews of a nearby park. When she discovered that the park had bad reviews, she looked on the local registry tracking predators in a given area. Her fears were confirmed, and she did not take that place.
You’ll probably want to know the minyan situation. The workaround for not having an actual address until you book is that Airbnb provides a map of every place you are looking at, so you can get the cross streets.
Compare these to the location of local shuls. It takes a few minutes for each home you’re considering, but you’ll know whether they’re in walking or driving distance – or if they are there at all.
Sometimes, timing is everything. If you’re staying in a gated community, for example, “the pool” they advertise can be the community pool. But, in Florida, in the winter, you will likely have that community pool to yourselves. Year-round residents generally don’t swim in outdoor pools in the winter. Desperate northerners, on the other hand, do.
Ah, yes. The tricky part of every frum vacation. Different families handle this in different ways, but, really, the options today are vast.
DIY still works for many, who bring their own utensils, make liberal use of the outdoor firepit, double-wrap and kasher as they feel necessary and permissible.
But if you do not have room to bring along a lot of gear, a great alternative is to send appliances to yourself via Amazon, like a – excuse me – sandwich maker and Betty crocker griddle. (You can do omelets, tuna melts, latkes, brownies, matzo brei…) And don’t forget Instacart as a food-supply option to stock your place from a local store. One savvy mom scheduled an Instacart order to greet the family when they arrived, so that there were some basics on hand for the kids.
Speaking of not schlepping stuff, there is still time to make use of Passover.com’s Seder in a Box, “the Ultimate Kosher for Passover Essentials Kit.” The product lives up to its name as far as non-perishables go, and provides free shipping and free matzo for orders over $100.
Regarding Pesach (and year-round), Orlando has a wide range of resources available including kashering crews, and large appliances available for loan such as hot water urns. There are also many local catering and food delivery companies, which takes plenty of the burden off the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. Depending on your length of stay and your budget, these are options to consider.
The Bottom Line
You have your budget, and vacay is vacay, and Pesach is Pesach. You can sometimes pay half up front and half at the time, and some renters offer a lower rate if you make it nonrefundable, as an incentive to take that option.
Generally, you can cancel up to the day before, but this is not always the case. Some will only give partial refunds if close to the travel date. One family’s experience, when they had to cancel the day of, was that they paid the first night and a cleaning fee; the rest of the fee was refunded.
You don’t want sticker shock to mess up an otherwise happy excursion, so be prepared for the fact that Airbnb charges a cleaning fee, service fee, and taxes.
After All Your Hard Work and Research…
Picture the sunshine, fresh air, new views, and relaxation. With the right kinds of planning, where you stay can be the bright backdrop of wonderful vacation memories.